By Steve Rogers
A NEW car brand is a big event and some are bigger than others. This one is big because of its name.
The Citroen DS of 1955 was the most significant car of the 20th century changing the face of motoring with its futuristic design and cutting edge technology.
Now that name is back as the stand alone luxury arm of the PSA group, that’s Peugeot, Citroen, and now Vauxhall-Opel. DS models have been produced since 2014 sitting alongside Citroen but now the brand is going it alone with bespoke DS showrooms.
The fifties classic was a stunning saloon so is this 21st century landmark model following that path? Absolutely not. The new car is a premium SUV, the DS7 Crossback.
Are they mad? No, just smart. The decision to go with an SUV was made years ago and before the surprising popularity of this style of car had really taken off.
Now the market is packed with SUVs of all shapes and sizes and is the only sector where sales are on the up so the DS team got that bit right.
The big question is whether the designers have conjured up something that embodies the same French spirit of adventure that took the world by storm in 1955.
Because of its lineage there is an expectation to produce something special, not easy in a high sided SUV. Going as radical as the original DS would probably have been a step too far so DS7 is fairly restrained on the outside but anything but ordinary on the inside.
Not that this is car without a presence. It has a strong, distinctive face with stunning LED light features. At the front three individual ice cube style modules on either side that do all sorts of wondrous things as well as providing fantastic illumination, and a fabulous ‘diamond’ strip at the rear.
There is even a night vision feature using an infrared camera that projects animals, pedestrians and objects up to 100m away on to the 12in binnacle display. It is not new technology but is a first for a C-segment SUV.
The real wow factor is reserved for the cabin. This is French chic in full flow with a variety of classy materials and attention to detail. Here diamonds are DS7’s best friend. The theme is everywhere, diamond shaped dials, screen graphics, door panels and dashboard covering. It sounds over the top but as a visual spectacle it works and backed up by ambient lighting in just about any colour.
A 12 inch touchscreen commands the dashboard with quick keys to make selections easier, and there is voice control as well.
The driving side throws up even bigger challenges because of the strength of the opposition, Volvo, Audi, Range Rover Evoque, and that is just scratching the surface.
Just like the iconic DS of 1955 – remember the hydropneumatics suspension – the DS7 has some suspension trickery up its sleeve. It has taken driving mode technology a step further using a windscreen mounted camera to scan the road for imperfections and adapting the damper settings accordingly.
It works but on some roads can be a disadvantage. The car has three drive modes, normal, sport and comfort with the monitoring operating in just the comfort setting. On roads with poor cambers and pitted surfaces the ride can become unsettled and fidgety.
I played with the settings and sometimes found the stiffer sport mode a better option on poor surfaces although it also varied with tyre sizes – smaller wheels performed better. Other than that this is a comfortable car.
The line up is Elegance, Performance Line, Prestige and Ultra Prestige with two 1.6 litre eight speed petrol engines with 180 or 225bhp and two diesels, 1.5 litre 130bhp and 2-litre 180bhp. Clean ones at that with emissions ranging from 107-134g/km. Prices start at £28,050 for a 1.6 diesel Elegance and topping out at £43,535 for a 180bhp diesel.
DS7 Crossback is a big statement on the premium SUV front and the range will soon be joined by an all wheel drive 300bhp plug-in hybrid.
Did it excite me as much as its Peugeot 3008 cousin? That blew the opposition away and exceeded expectations. DS 7 Crossback met expectations.
DS7 Crossback Ultra Prestige
Engine: 2-litre BlueHDi 180bhp
Performance: 0-62mph 9.4secs; 134mph
Economy: 57.6mpg combined
Emissions: 128g/km. Road tax £140
Insurance group 31